Lawmakers Getting Behind Hemp Industry

Looking at a potentially lucrative new industry, lawmakers are working on rules for farmers and businesses to grow and sell industrial hemp in Florida.

The Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday approved a bill (SB 1020) that would create a regulatory framework for the industry, which is emerging after a federal law last year legalized industrial hemp as an agricultural product. In doing so, Congress effectively separated industrial hemp, a type of cannabis, from marijuana that can get users high.

Supporters say hemp can be used in a variety of products such as rope, animal feed, building materials and clothing — and could be a boon as a new crop for farmers. For example, some Northwest Florida lawmakers have started touting hemp as a crop that could help farmers and timber operators who sustained massive damage in October’s Hurricane Michael.

The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee is scheduled to take up a similar bill (HB 333) on Tuesday.

“The intent here is to get this emerging industry to be viable in the state of Florida and for us to be as cutting edge as possible while also respecting the guiderails … that the federal government has provided in this situation,”

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